The last few days have been an uncharacteristic flood of memories. Of thoughts that beg to be written down and ideas that could lead to something bigger, something better than here and now. I’m memory mining for a piece about my mother. I stayed hunched over one notebook and then another, scribbling furiously, intent on capturing every memory before it retreated into my subconscious mind, never to return again. The words sputtered on the page and the more I wrote, the more I remembered. The more I remembered, the more I realised how much of my life I have chosen to misremember.
I don’t have clear memories of being a despicable child, but everything I wrote in the last two weeks made me reconsider my self-image. And since none of it was mirrored in my old journals, I wondered if I wrote only to justify my actions and convince myself that I’m better than the person I knew I was. And is this what other writers do as well, delude themselves? Not only writers, but all artists. Do we see ourselves differently through a photograph we clicked, music we wrote or a face we sketched? Do we become better in our own eyes when we see a part of ourselves in front of us? Have we taken the concept of externalising all too literally?
Earlier in the week I came across a paper on the influence Lord Byron had on Oscar Wilde. It draws a thread through their similar yet separate relationships with fame, sexuality and exile. Both hold a special place in my heart, I’ve admired their work for more years than I can count on my fingers, and have quoted them in the most carefully selected inopportune of moments. But I often wondered how they could have put their loved ones through such turmoil. How could they see so much good around them, and not imbibe it? Why did they continue to do wrong, when they were aware of what’s right? But now I’m left wondering if these men too were writing to protect themselves from their own choices.
Lord Byron had two incestuous relationships to his name and several instances of infidelities. But his verses on love, life, suffering with dignity and allowing ourselves the time and space to heal have all come from a place of authenticity. Because to believe that art is a lie, would be to believe that our life is a lie, and that’s not an avenue I’m willing to explore tonight. Also, where else could such honest thoughts stem from, thoughts that generations of readers relate to? So was he glorifying in his writing what he knew he had failed to do in his life? Or was he convinced that his life truly mirrored his writing? Having just realised the misconceptions I have lived with, is there a possibility that these writers too believed in everything they wrote? I used to wonder why such writers, who understood human emotions so well, would hurt the people around them. But did they even know they were hurting others? Was Oscar Wilde, who spoke so grandly about love, family and respect, even aware that he was leading a double life?
Often people ask if it is possible to separate the art from the artist. But I want to know if the artists are able to separate themselves from their art. Have their own words deluded them? Is it right to hold their delusions against them? Are we so busy sifting the right from the wrong, that we have forgotten how to define either? Also, who are we to forgive? And by some definition, isn’t everything wrong? And surely, if everything is wrong, then how can anything be wrong?